Another countdown from the atrocity that has become Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend, plus extended hours and days to buy things for yourself and family members to open on Christmas to show them how much you care about the items they can later throw away. I always loved the gifts my mom got me, feeling like she knew me the most and then Caleb came along and got to know me on a different level — one more adult and personal, but a change happened to where we stopped collecting panties and cups and other trinkets and experiencing moments that would last in our memories for as long as we could take pictures, write about them, and retell them.
In living with this tradition, we have started off the month with a BBQ of steaks and chicken for the guys, veggie skewers with pineapple for me, and some sausages for Michael’s (renter of the villa where the event was held in Amwaj) British girlfriend when she arrived later after work. Caleb made potato salad and there were two giant bowls of mac-n-cheese (one more al dente than the other) to go along with other food. Some guys watched TV while I got to meet Cheng (Reggie is his civilian name) and who Caleb had made a birthday cake for — to celebrate the oldest guy on their ship at 37 years old.
Caleb had Thanksgiving Day off so he volunteered to make banana bread and candied yams for the guys who didn’t. He also made some loaves for us and a regular loaf so we could have a sandwich for dinner. The base had plans to give out free meals and we thought with the arrival of the 5,000 people from USS Abraham Lincoln that there would be no food left so when we went at 1 pm we only had room for pie — pumpkin, cherry, and apple — even though there were kid volunteers yelling at us to eat from their side of the buffet line as there were two set up.
It wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t have food mentioned ever so frequently… as the only people who can’t be considered foodies are those who try to live without it (unsuccessfully) and those who find joy in food that varies from my taste (as cultural norms play a part). Caleb was looking for something at the deli and saw my eyes light up between the olive selection and cheese salads — labneh, which is strained yogurt made into the consistency of spreadable cream cheese. We grabbed some with black cumin seed (Arabic: haba barka) and another with pomegranate and beetroot.
Ozzy brought me along to Dragon City to look for some TV technology device for his uncle but we also got to look at the lights, clothes, gadgets, and kitchenware sections in the portion of this large mall that we covered. I looked around for something I didn’t need — like the flimsy phone case with an owl on it or the backup phone the length of my finger or the Saudi flag sticker for the car I don’t have — and didn’t get anything.
Ozzy wanted a snack and I was told to bring home bananas so we walked around The Lagoon but couldn’t decide between the empty bowling alley and the packed Starbucks so we went to the corner market where I got a bottled falooda (of course it’s not the same, but I have a thing for trying basil seed drinks in glass bottles) and could’ve tried a new flavor of popcorn — boti kabab, tom yam, shawarma, seaweed, or chili & lemon, but didn’t. I also didn’t get any new loose leaf flavors from Tea Club because I can try them later before I buy a tin of something I don’t like.
We were to walk to his place around 7 pm so that Captain and Senior could call the crew that were up for advancement and let them know if they made it — three of them did. Well, turns out there are four different buildings that start with Fontana, so we ended up at the wrong one and the boss offered to come pick us up. While we waited I helped myself to some free coffee, two types of tea (of which I didn’t finish the last), and a date with tahina which was sweet.
Caleb and I tried out some of the chairs in the lounge and then the Nissan pulled up and we were off to the proper, and closer, Fontana building and all the way to the top floor. I didn’t expect anything to be fancier but was hoping to see the view. I meet his wife, the woman who will bring me a chair and a glass of water before disappearing and sit with the guys for a moment before joining Andrew’s dad in the living room to chat about work and travel and his three kids for about an hour.
I was gifted a blue and gold keychain with some knots learned from a boatswain mate (the guys in charge of ropes, paint, and hull maintenance) on a tiger cruise (when sailors invite people over the age of 8 years old sans significant other (anyone they’d have sex with) on the last part of a long deployment — his was from Pearl Harbor to San Diego. I’m grateful I got to be with Caleb at work before I got out as what happened underway definitely wouldn’t be appropriate if I was pretending to be his sister just to get a peek at his life out to sea.
Having learned some background I felt more relaxed around Andrew and on the ride home he gave us I learned that he was Caleb’s age, but besides that, they don’t have much else in common. Andrew has a twin sister and is a workaholic, finding any and every excuse to be at the ship and convince Caleb into working late (after the last bus leaves the yards), and doesn’t miss his wife on her long visits home. I could see being friends with Andrew, and definitely his dad, but I can see the difficulty in trying to work for someone who sounds ten years younger than their age.
I find myself at City Centre Mall walking every level to see what catches my eye — a lot of little Daiso-inspired shops, Lush outlet with naked (plastic-free) products, Cioccolat Italiani where they put melted chocolate in the cone before topping with gelato, other body outlets with soaps and lotions (that I have plenty of) but not the shampoo I like, and a bookstore where I can add books to my to-read list and soon my to-read-on-kindle list so that all the horizontal surfaces in the house aren’t covered with books.
Lunch with Said will be at Ric’s Kountry Kitchen and we are one of four customers in the place sans bunnies and chickens that used to roam the front yard. We talk about work and the hassle of being an entrepreneur, the lessons learned in marriage, thoughts about having kids, spending time with family, and knowing when to stay in or where to travel to next. I didn’t go to my high school reunion but it’s an experiment in nature vs nurture in seeing how kids that spent so much time together adult differently. Even though I’ve been gone three years it seems a lot has changed (relationships and jobs) while everything has stayed the same (constant moving and remodeling).
I’m not home long before Ozzy messages me to join him on a trip to Avenues Mall. We park by the long entrance to the Four Seasons and walk around the canal that still has bridges and buildings under construction so that we can see the purple, blue, and yellow lights from the walkway, cranes, and lampposts reflect off the water as the sun sets. Once darkness arrives we meander up to the 5-star hotel to enjoy the greenery lining the way amongst their three outdoor pools — all with a guy on watch to make sure we don’t do anything silly (which happened at the Ritz).
I’m usually up for trying new things — except a hotdog at Ric’s and a meal at Raising Cane’s that consists mostly of fried chicken. We opt for Blaze Pizza instead and the lady preparing my half pizza and side salad asks if I’m “veagen” as I order cheese with both so I tell her, “mostly”. We had plans to walk off our meal and actually look around inside this time, but Ozzy’s work called so that just gives us a reason to go back.